FA CUP THIRD ROUND
SATURDAY 2ND JANUARY, 1999
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 (4) - WATFORD 2 (2 )
Anderton (pen) 13,
Watford scorers -
Referee:- Peter Jones
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Sinton ( sub Edinburgh 87 ); Fox, Anderton ( sub Clemence, 66 ), Nielsen, Ginola; Ferdinand, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Calderwood; Allen
Watford (3-5-2):- Chamberlain; Page, Palmer, Robinson; Bazeley, Iroha, Hyde ( sub Rosenthal, 46 ), Johnson, Kennedy; Smart ( sub Wright, 65 ), Williams
Subs not used:- Day (GK); Hazan, Gibbs
Nationwide promotion hopefuls, Watford came to White Hart Lane, hoping to spring a cup surprise. Whilst they gave us an early shock, and were always threatening in attack in the first half, it was Spurs who romped home in this entertaining fixture. After a six goal first half, the second half was inevitably going to fall somewhat flat, but a spectacular hail storm, and some exhibition football by the hosts kept the crowd entertained.
The visitors featured a big number nine - Noel Williams - who is similar in build and appearance to Leicester's Emile Heskey. Sol Campbell found the enterprising number nine as difficult to handle, as he has often found the England under 21 international (Emile Heskey). Williams is a youngster who has come through the Watford ranks and holds the record of being their youngest ever league scorer. Whilst he didn't get on the score sheet, he was everywhere for his team, and caused much panic and confusion.
There were two ex-Spurs on the bench for Watford - Chris Day, and Ronnie Rosenthal - more of whom later.
Watford took the lead with only a minute on the clock. Iroha ran powerfully into the Spurs penalty area. Campbell felt he had to stand back, at the risk of conceding a penalty had there been any contact. This gave Iroha the advantage, and he put in a telling cross, which led to a shot on goal which was saved by Walker, but which fell to Johnson, who only had to get the touch to ensure the ball hit the net.
This early deficit fired the home side into action, and Les Ferdinand had two forays down the left flank. Iversen jinked his way into the area, but was foiled before he could get a shot on goal. A Nielsen throw was headed on by Ferdinand, and Iversen's header was comfortably saved.
In the eighth minute, Watford very nearly went two up! Steve Carr, and Alan Sinton, together with even Sol, had shaky starts, and Williams took the ball to the bye-line to the left of goal; put in a low cross, leading to a scramble, which culminated in Hyde cracking a shot against the bar.
Spurs equalised with 10 minutes on the clock. Walker found Fox with a throw; Fox won a corner with his break; and assisted with the short corner, which is currently a prominent part of our game. It was Anderton who ultimately crossed the ball for a flying glancing header across the goal and into the net by Steffen Iversen.
It wasn't long before we were 2-1 up. Ginola won a free kick on the left; Anderton took it, and as Ferdinand challenged the defender for the ball, the defender clearly handballed the ball to safety. Referee Jones showed no hesitation, and neither did Anderton with a super penalty kick into the goalie's right bottom corner.
Ginola was brought down shortly after that, in a similar location, and Iroha earnt himself the only booking of the game. Again, Daveed forced his way into the penalty area, to be brought down for what I thought was a certain penalty - to no avail.
In the 19th minute, Iversen finished off from short range, after Sol headed down an Anderton corner. 3-1 after 20 minutes! What a game! To their credit, Watford never gave up, and Walker tipped a Williams shot over the bar soon after the third goal for Spurs. Then the action moved to the Park Lane end. A Sinton throw, was headed down by Ferdinand; and Ginola ran towards the area. He hit a superb shot from 25 yards, which would have been a goal of the season contender, but Chamberlain got a touch. Mid way through the first half, Sol Campbell made what I thought was one of his best ever passes out of defence, to send Sinton clear with only the goalie to beat, or at least to set up his team mates. Sadly, Sinton wasted the opportunity woefully.
Watford got themselves back into the game after 34 minutes. They made the best of our confusion down the left flank, when Bazeley and Smart combined to send a cross which Kennedy easily headed home.
The two goal balance was retrieved just before half time, when a poor clearance reached Nielsen on the edge of the area. I've heard that the shot was described as blistering, but I didn't think Nielsen hit the ball cleanly. It was an accurate shot however, into the bottom right of the net. Iversen nearly got a hat trick before half time, with a header going just wide.
The start of the second half brought the introduction of Ronnie Rosenthal, and he got a rousing reception from the home faithful. He was also handsomely cheered at the end of the game. There was even one moment when Ronnie must have thought he was in a Spurs shirt at Southampton, because he had a good run and a long shot which only just went over the bar.
The second half could have been sub-titled "How many attempts did Ruel Fox need to score?!", because at one stage it seemed that all his team mates were setting him up, and willing him to put the ball away.
Steve Carr had a couple of shots early on, but the weather dominated the game for a while, as first the black clouds gathered; thunder clapped; lightning flashed around the stadium; and then the clouds burst and emptied tons of hail stones upon the ground. The referee disappeared down the tunnel, and there was some fear that he may call the game off. I suspect he was seeking a forecast, but he only needed to look to the west, where brighter skies could be seen. The game was allowed to go on, but no doubt the players found the conditions more tricky. It was Spurs who coped the best, and whilst there were occasional threats from the visitors, Spurs generally bossed the game from here on in. Ginola was clearly enjoying his game, and there was some pretty build up play, from which I felt we should have scored even more goals.
Ginola threatened goal several times. There was one superbly measured chip shot on the hour which forced another good save. Soon after this, Fox was set up by Ferdinand, and he hit a cracking shot only to be thwarted by the post. Iversen and Ferdinand combined to try and set Ruel up after 75 minutes, but Ruel will hope that his laughable effort does not make the televised highlights!
Fox had a good chance cleared for a corner, and Les Ferdinand ( who worked his socks off for no personal return ) had a header cleared off the line by Kennedy.
Finally, Fox did get on the scoresheet after Iversen from the right bye line, passed back to Ruel who had time to tee his shot up, before making no mistake.
So, to Watford we say, "Thanks for coming, and good luck in the cup next year". Incidentally, on this showing, if they do achieve promotion (and I think that doubtful ), I wouldn't rate their chances of staying up.
We now wait and see who we draw in the fourth round. A certain law dictates that we draw either Wimbledon, or Leeds ( who still have to beat Rushden and Diamonds in a replayed tie ).
· Brian Judson's match preview
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